Why I Care About Financial Wellness

Financial wellness? Sounds boring. Worse, the finance industry is embroiled in scandals, corruption, and poor user experiences. Why would someone who cares about people want to enter the world of banks, wealth management, and financial institutions?

Because people need us. Financial wellness is at stake.

Banking is Not Human

In spite of the commercials telling us otherwise, the banking system is not human. It was built for numbers and machines. People don’t say things like “overdraft” – they say “out of money.” They (we) don’t say “account holder”; they say “owner”. And no one says “available balance”; try “money I have.”

Why is the language so confusing? I can think of three reasons.

  • Clarity isn’t tactful. Can you imagine telling someone “you’re out of money?” So embarrassing! In spite of holding our money, the banking system seems to follow the Victorian principle that talking about money is gauche. They err on the side of euphemisms and diplomacy, using indirect terms.
  • Regulations and litigation are scary. Much like healthcare, there’s a lot of stake in the financial world. If the banking establishment doesn’t use the exact correct term, there’s a risk that the customer will misunderstand, and could then sue. Of course, there’s a risk the customer will misunderstand the correct term. It’s confusing. But that’s not the bank’s fault, legally speaking.
  • The banking system is complicated. Again, this is like healthcare. Banking is a complex system, and the language mirrors that reality.

Why do People Need Financial Wellness?

It would be great to say “just don’t deal with the banks!” – and too many people do. But financial institutions handle our mortgages, our retirement savings, our paychecks, and much more. Anyone who doesn’t understand it is penalized by overdraft bills, neglected savings, or worse.

But there’s more. Financial wellness is one part of a three-legged stool. Financial wellness, health, and knowledge. Or, as the saying goes, “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Financial wellness is the “wealthy”.

In other words, healthcare, finance, and education are the building blocks of an otherwise happy life. And typically, you can’t be one without the others.

How Can Content Strategists Help Financial Wellness?

I’ve spoken before about the value of financial literacy, and I stand by that. You see, every content strategist takes an oath when they work in finance. They may not do it consciously, but here’s the promise we make:

I, as a content strategist, will help translate the complex reality into something useful.

So we can explore why retail banks make it so difficult to become a customer. We can work on projects to simplify the complexities inherent in the banking system. And at conferences like FXD, the Financial Experience Design Conference, we can begin to design a better system.

I hope you’ll join us.

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